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Why hitting drivers off your knees is the best drill for your swing

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Growing up in a small, rural town, I didn’t have access to a lot of instruction, nor was it easily available. Sites like GolfWRX weren’t around at the time. Being fascinated with the golf swing at an early age, I had to rely on trial and error with my own swing, an old-school camera and the once-a-month Golf Digest issue.

Every month, I would scan that Golf Digest for tips from the best golfers and golf instructors in the world. The names changed, but the same old instruction was often given in the write ups. I would constantly try to mirror the images of what I saw, following the tips to gain more power and to be more consistent.

Then there was our PGA Teaching Professional at our local golf course. The 10th hole at our local muni had a creek running across the fairway, a good 230 yards out. Usually with a few spectators on hand, Tad would tee up a ball, place a towel on the ground and proceed to hit a driver from his knees, clearing the creek with ease. At first sight, it was simply hard to believe. Many bets were won with that swing.

Already being a student of the swing, this left me confused. How could he create so much speed and power from that position? Everything I read told me that power came from a “big shoulder turn” on the backswing and “firing my hips” on the downswing.

At the time, I thought my local PGA pro had mastered a trick-shot. Now I realize that hitting drivers off your knees, or just swinging from your knees, is the best drill for your golf swing and can instantly change your game.

Here’s why.

When you swing the club from your knees, it forces you to turn your upper body in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. The best way to make contact is to fold up your right arm, which will pull your body into the proper coil position behind the ball. Simply folding up your right arm will pull your shoulders around, so a conscious, big shoulder turn is not necessary.

To a player who doesn’t turn in the proper direction, swinging from your knees will feel more around or level with the shoulders at first. “Tilters” as I call them, or players whose spines tend to move toward the target on their backswing, will not be able to make contact doing this drill. They will feel like they are hitting well behind the ball when attempting to swing, and will be forced to adjust.

face on

Swinging from your knees is also a great drill to produce speed, especially arm speed. Being down in this position will stabilize your body, getting rid of extra moving parts. Now you can generate shaft speed with your arms.

Anytime we can limit extra moving body parts in the golf swing, we have a greater chance to produce speed and consistency. A longer swing does not mean more speed and is usually a false sense of power. In the video below, former Re-Max Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski hits a golf ball 331 yards from his knees.

For players who battle the dreaded “over-the-top” move, which causes a weak ball flight, feeling how your right arm works throughout this drill (for a right-handed golfer) will give you instant feedback on how your right arm should work both on the backswing and downswing. A tucked, right arm on the downswing is a key move for delivering a powerful inside path to the ball.

Again, in order to make contact with the ball from on your knees, your right arm must stay tucked in on the downswing, which is a must to keeping the shaft shallow (show below) and will help produce a draw ball flight.

side

If you are not ready to give the driver off the knees a try or don’t feel comfortable doing the drill at your local range, try practicing with an alignment stick with no ball as shown below. Take your stance from your knees and practice swinging the alignment stick with your right arm only. Work on building up speed and you will still get the feeling of how your arms and body work throughout the drill. You will notice how much speed you can generate from such a small limited move.

stick

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Kelvin is a Class A PGA golf professional in San Francisco, California. He teaches and has taught at some of the top golf clubs in the Bay Area, including the Olympic Club and Sonoma Golf Club. He is TPI certified, and a certified Callaway and Titleist club fitter. Kelvin has sought advice and learned under several of the top instructors in the game, including Alex Murray and Scott Hamilton. To schedule a lesson, please call 818.359.0352 Online lessons also available at www.kelleygolf.com

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Pingback: How golf should be learned – GolfWRX

  2. Pingback: What you can learn from Steve Elkington – GolfWRX

  3. jacob

    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Great article…try it …

  4. WayneKing

    Sep 27, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Those them curry life alert shoes?

    You ever made over the creek on 10 at ukiah?

  5. BSGolf

    Sep 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Kevin Kelly responsible for drivers breaking at the hosel across the nation…

  6. Mr. Wedge

    Sep 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I had an instructor who made me do this once, but didn’t really explain why and maybe that’s why I didn’t keep trying. Might try it into a net at home. I’d hate to do this in public at the range.

  7. Dave C

    Sep 26, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    It would be nice if the video was attached so we could watch it!

  8. JStan

    Sep 26, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Great drill. Is that Presidio? Sure looks like it.

    • Lowell

      Sep 26, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Looks like number 18 at Harding Park to me JStan. 18 at Presidio is that Long Straight par 5. Both are beautiful courses.

  9. KoreanSlumLord

    Sep 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    This drill was often used by Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus on the practice tee.

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Instruction

What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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Instruction

How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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